How to Beat the Winter Blues | 15 Tips & Fun Ideas

January 31, 2020

As the weather turns colder and days get shorter, many people experience a drop in energy or mood that is often referred to as the “winter blues.” Although feeling blue can be a bummer, there are steps you can take to make the season more enjoyable and beat the winter blues.

What Are the Winter Blues?

During the cold winter months, many people experience unexplained sadness or moodiness. Although there can be several causes — such as holiday stress — one of the biggest reasons is decreased sunlight exposure. Some symptoms of the winter blues include:

  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating on tasks
  • Feeling lethargic and tired, even after a full night’s sleep
  • Unexplained irritability or mood swings
  • A sense of gloominess
  • A noticeable increase or decrease in appetite

15 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues This Winter

If you have been feeling down in the dumps, give these 15 tips to beat the winter blues a try.

1. Make Plans With Friends

One fun way to beat the winter blues is to get other people involved. Numerous studies suggest spending time with loved ones and creating a strong social connection can relieve stress and boost your immune system. Spending time together can also help your friends feel good, too — so everybody wins.

To beat the winter blues together, you could:

  • Cook and enjoy a meal together.
  • Have a snowball fight.
  • Build a snowman.
  • Try your hand at ice skating.
  • Get a group together and go bowling.
  • Catch a movie.
  • Try a new restaurant together.
  • Hit the gym or try a new fitness class.

2. Spend Time Outdoors

If you want to know how to beat winter depression, go outside. Nature in the winter is a beautiful sight to see. Plus, spending time outdoors — even during the winter months — can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which helps fight brain fog and also helps with other important bodily functions.

Try these ideas to enjoy the crisp, refreshing air this winter:

  • Playing in the snow with friends.
  • Taking a winter hike.
  • Going on a winter camping trip.
  • Going skiing, snowboarding or sledding.

3. Stay Active

Exercise and physical activity have numerous physical benefits, like increased heart health, reduced blood pressure, weight control and increased energy. But did you know staying active can actually help you beat the winter blues, too?

A good workout at the gym or a brisk jog can:

  • Release endorphins: Exercise boosts your endorphin production, which is the “happy” chemical your body naturally produces.
  • Help you sleep: An invigorating workout will tire your body and help ease you into a relaxing sleep at the end of the day. Being well-rested gives you the energy you need to tackle your winter depression.
  • Reduce stress: Are your winter blues stressing you out? Exercise can improve your body’s stress response.
  • Boost brain performance: Some studies suggest exercise helps your brain produce new cells, which boosts brain performance and clears mind fog.

While working out in a temperature-controlled gym is a good option if you want to avoid ice or cold wind, there are several benefits to working out in the cold. For example, because it is cold, your heart does not have to work as hard, resulting in less sweat and more energy.

4. Get Cozy Around the Fire

Another fun way to beat winter depression is to build a campfire. Campfires will keep you warm, and one study says a campfire also helps your body relax and promotes healthy social behavior.

If you are not sure how to build a fire, follow these steps:

  1. Determine which type of campfire you want to build: teepee, log cabin, platform, star or lean-to.
  2. Gather all the necessary materials, including tinder, kindling, firewood and a flame source.
  3. Choose a safe spot that is far away from any dry brush.
  4. Create a tinder bed.
  5. Stack the kindling on top of the tinder and use the firewood to construct your fire.
  6. Light your campfire using waterproof matches or another flame source.
  7. Enjoy your campfire. To get the most out of your campfire, invite your friends over for some cozy campfire comfort foods, like bean and cornbread casserole or campfire chicken pot pie.

5. Keep Busy

One way to beat the winter blues is to keep yourself busy. In fact, one study from the Association for Psychological Science found being busy makes people happier than being idle. When you fill your schedule with lots of things to do, you have less downtime for moodiness and gloominess to fester — just be careful not to overdo it.

Some ways to stay busy this winter are:

  • Volunteering with a local charity.
  • Learning a new skill or hobby.
  • Beginning a creative project.
  • Cleaning and organizing your space.

6. Listen to Music

Listening to music is one of the best ways to beat the winter blues. Upbeat music can improve your short-term disposition and long-term happiness. For this reason, many people turn to music as a form of therapy when they feel sad. Listening to your favorite summer songs can also take you back to a warmer time and remind you that spring and summer weather are just around the corner.

7. Take a Trip

Vacations are not just for summer, and a change of scenery can do wonders for your mood this winter! If you have started to feel the winter blues, plan a getaway trip for yourself or take a group of friends with you. Taking a trip can help you recharge and reset. In fact, some studies suggest that taking regular vacations can be good for your overall health.

KOA has over 500 locations across North America, and many are open year-round. Escape the winter cold by traveling to warm-weather places, or embrace the winter weather by planning an outdoor camping adventure.

For the perfect winter camping trip, keep these tips in mind:

  • Prepare your gear: If you are camping in an RV, winterize and insulate your rig before heading out. If you are tent camping, make sure you wear plenty of dry layers and have a plan in place in case the temperature drops too low. Use a tent heater to stay toasty all night long. For a comfortable, hassle-free winter camping experience, reserve a stay in a KOA Camping Cabin or Deluxe Cabin.
  • Cook hearty meals: One of the best ways to stay warm during a cold-weather camping trip is by cooking hearty campfire meals — do not forget to bring all the ingredients you need for campfire favorites like cast iron chili and cornbread or campfire mac and cheese.
  • Embrace the winter hike: One of the best camping activities is exploring and hiking the great outdoors. Winter hikes are a unique twist on this favorite camping pastime. Winter offers a different perspective of nature and, if you are lucky, you might even see winter wildlife. Be sure to heed any trail signage and only choose trails that are safe in winter weather.
  • Stay hydrated: It can be easy to forget about proper hydration during the winter. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout your camping trip, as hydration is essential for regulating your body temperature.
  • Keep an eye on the weather: Before you hit the roads or the trail, be sure you have taken a look at the weather forecast. Also, familiarize yourself with black ice and understand how to navigate icy roadways, just in case. The weather can change quickly in the winter, which could result in hazardous road conditions. If you are driving to your camping destination or plan to do any sightseeing, monitor the weather and plan accordingly.
  • Plan fun winter activities: In addition to enjoying the KOA Campground itself, you can fill your camping trip with other winter activities, like snowball fights, building a snowman, snowboarding, skiing, sledding, ice skating and more. Staying active during your winter camping trip can help keep you warm, and all that exercise is great for beating the winter blues.

If a vacation is not an option, something as simple as taking a drive or visiting a friend’s house can be enough to jog your mood and refresh your outlook. If the winter weather has you housebound, spend time in different parts of the house, rather than confining yourself to only the living room or bedroom.

8. Clean and Organize

One tip to beat the winter blues is to clean up your room or house. Think about it — is it easier to unwind and find peace in a messy, cluttered space or when everything is clean and open? A well-organized, clutter-free home is a great place to start combatting your winter blues. Besides, the cleaner your space is, the less likely you are to attract dust mites or irritate allergies, which can make your winter blues more challenging to manage.

Turn your home into an oasis this winter by:

  • Donating things you do not use, like clothes, books and children’s toys.
  • Dusting all surfaces, including blinds and hard-to-reach places.
  • Cleaning out and organizing your refrigerator and pantry.
  • Washing your bed set and fluffing your pillows.
  • Lighting scented candles.
  • Rearranging or redecorating your living room or bedroom.

Winter is also the perfect time to work on any interior home repairs or improvement projects. For example, you could repaint a room in your house, line your cabinets, replace knobs and fixtures or hang frames and art on the wall.

9. Turn on the Lights

One reason people get the blues during the winter is the lack of sunlight exposure. Combat this by turning on the lights and opening the curtains and blinds around your home. Whenever possible, sit outside on your porch or drive with the windows down in your car to get as much sunlight and fresh air as possible — as long as it is warm enough. Light exposure can make you feel better, and it can help fight the cause of your winter blues at the source.

10. Do Something You Love

When you are feeling down, spend a little extra time taking care of yourself. Spend time doing something you love that makes you feel happy or relaxed. For example, to get over the winter blues, you could:

  • Reward yourself with something you want.
  • Relax in a bubble bath.
  • Indulge in your favorite food.
  • Spend time with your pet.
  • Get lost in a good book or movie.
  • Express yourself through creativity.

11. Talk About It

Several studies have found putting your thoughts and feelings into words can help you feel better. If you are experiencing winter depression, call a loved one and plan to meet for lunch or a cup of coffee. Let them know what you are feeling. Talking it out can help you frame your feelings and gain perspective, plus it can help you see you are not alone. You might even find your loved one is also experiencing the winter blues, and you can work together to lift one another’s spirits.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to someone about your feelings, consider journaling. Writing about your feelings in a private journal can reduce anxiety and stress by giving you a space to be open and honest about your winter blues and develop a plan to beat them. Another option is to keep a gratitude journal, which is a journal dedicated solely to recording the things you are grateful for each day. For many people, gratitude journals help them realize the positive things in their lives.

12. Pay Attention to Your Diet

If you are trying to figure out how to get over winter blues, take a close look at your diet. Eating well and staying hydrated is very important for your physical and mental performance:

  • Eat well: A well-balanced diet is the first step to feeling better and overcoming your mental funk. Almost 95% of your body’s serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, appetite and moods — is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, the food you eat can have an impact on the way you feel. Plus, good-for-you food helps your body perform at its best. To beat the winter blues, eat a diet that incorporates plenty of whole grains, fresh produce, legumes and lean protein.
  • Stay hydrated: Some researchers have found that even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on your physical and mental performance. Many factors — including body weight, level of physical activity, temperature and pregnancy — all factor into the amount of water you should drink daily. On average, men should drink about 125 ounces of water, and women should consume 91 ounces of water per day.

13. Get Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep makes it difficult to regulate your emotions. How much sleep your body needs depends on several factors, including age. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night to perform at their best.

To get a better night’s sleep, try these tips:

  • Avoid consuming caffeine and sugar too close to bedtime.
  • Take a hot bath to relax your muscles before turning in.
  • Avoid looking at bright screens while in bed, as they can stimulate your brain and keep your eyes from resting.
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases often.
  • Use a special lotion or pillow spray each night, so your body begins to associate that smell with rest.
  • Get plenty of exercise throughout the day, so your muscles and joints can relax.
  • Keep your bedroom a restful place. Do not do homework, pay bills or other stress-causing things there. Reserve that space for rest and relaxation only.

14. Pause and Meditate

If you are feeling down, take time throughout each day to pause and meditate or purposeful reflection. There are many different types of meditation, each one designed to help your body achieve peace. To boost your mood, take a moment to breathe slowly, focusing on each inhale and exhale. Reflect on the positive things around you — loved ones, nature, good food, health — and focus on these things. If there is a quote or song lyric that helps you feel better, repeat it to yourself out loud. Do whatever it takes to recenter yourself and focus your mind on moving forward.

15. Spend Time Volunteering

Volunteering when you feel blue is a great way to stay busy and keep your mind focused on other things. Numerous mental health benefits come with helping others, including:

  • Increased self-confidence: You gain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth when you see tangible results of your work. Helping others feel good makes you feel good, too.
  • Connecting with others: Volunteering lets you connect to other people socially and create relationships that can help you battle the blues.
  • Gain perspective: Volunteering your time to help those who are less fortunate offers a valuable perspective.

To volunteer with an organization or cause, you can use a volunteer match database, like VolunteerMatch or Idealist. These websites match you with charities and organizations based on your passions, skills, experience and interests.

You can also volunteer on a smaller scale by helping your neighbors. Here are some ways you can make a difference in your neighborhood this winter:

  • During the holiday season, organize or collect donations for a toy or canned food drive.
  • Ask your neighbors if they need any snow shoveled from their sidewalks or porches.
  • Offer to run errands for someone who cannot leave their home easily in winter weather.
  • Make hats, socks or scarves to donate to a homeless shelter.
  • Contact your local animal shelter and see if they need help walking dogs or cleaning around the facility.
  • Cook and deliver a homemade meal for someone in need.

Get Outside This Winter

Conquer your winter blues this season by getting outdoors with a KOA camping trip. Research shows spending time in the great outdoors can:

  • Make you feel better: Studies suggest exposure to plants and outdoor scenery can make you feel more positive and even better cope with pain.
  • Reduce stress: Nature can help reduce your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension.
  • Help you connect to the world more deeply: Some studies demonstrate an increased sense of community and connection to the world after spending time in nature.
  • Inspire creativity: Some researchers believe immersing yourself in the outdoors can stimulate the part of your brain responsible for creativity and production.

With over 500 locations across North America, there is a KOA campground close to you. Say goodbye to winter blues and reserve a stay at one of our cabins, RV Sites or Tent Sites. At every site, you have access to fire pits for cozy campfires, restroom facilities with hot water, the KOA Store and other convenient amenities. The helpful staff at KOA is here to help you make the most out of your winter getaway. Find a KOA near you and start planning the ultimate winter adventure today.

When the weather turns colder and days get shorter people often experience the "winter blues." Check out these tips & ideas for how to beat the winter blues this season!

Enjoy a Greater Slice of the Great Outdoors

Discover even more room to enjoy outdoor living with a KOA Patio Site®. These spacious sites offer your very own patio equipped with outdoor furniture and the perfect place for a fire. Wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee with the sunrise and spend an evening relaxing with family and friends.

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